The away day, the retreat, the jamboree. They have all been discredited by abuse. But there is a really powerful, one to two day event, I would recommend to a management team trying to scale their business – The Strategic Workshop. Here are my ingredients to a successful outcome:

  1. Remind your senior management team why reviewing your strategy is the key to success. Explain to them the importance of “Zooming Out” as well as “Zooming In” (Jim Collins).
  2. Remind them of recent examples of large successful companies missing the bend in the road. eg Motorola, Nokia, Blackberry, Kodak, Oracle and a 1000 private companies who also missed the bend in the road. Big companies get complacent, lazy, over confident. They miss things. Taking time outs could be the key to your success.
  3. Remind them this is a great technique for reviewing the best way forward. To really rehearse potential market segments that you could dominate based on your unique skills. This is no easy task. There is still too much mystery interpreting the significance of market events eg banking, newspapers, music, software, and automotive sectors have all been generating a plethora of signals to their respective players that repositioning is essential!
  4. Invite each participant to the workshop to produce a key position paper to prepare and distribute in advance of the workshop. This builds great engagement to the debate and ensures issues are thoroughly researched to allow thoughts in the workshop to flow smoothly.
  5. Limit the agenda items to a maximum of 5. But they must be 5 big key issues that will help drive the business forward.
  6. Appoint an external moderator. (I love doing these!!)
  7. Hold the workshop offsite and ban the use of cell phones during each session.
  8. Allocate the time efficiently to ensure all agenda items are covered.
  9. All agenda items must end in clear next steps (which could be as simple as detailed research to establish the key facts).
  10. The minimum outcome for each agenda item should be a set of questions you need to answer, at some point, in the next 4 weeks.
  11. You have to be careful that these workshops don’t become witch hunts. It’s too easy for managers to gang up on one weak manager. Control personal attacks by keeping focused on the business agenda.
  12. Typical outcomes to these workshops have included:
    • Restructuring of organ charts.
    • Launching of an acquisition strategy.
    • Launching of new products.
    • Aborting a losing idea.
    • Introduction of a new lead generation model.
    • Total overhaul of the marketing content strategy.
    • Revamping of the company’s business model.
    • A much tighter definition of what business the company is in!

Final thought – October is a great time to run a workshop if your financial year end is December because conclusions can be fed into your budgeting process for next year.